Microbial community structures in biofilms of a clearwell in a drinking water supply system in Beijing, China were examined by clone library, terminal restriction fragment length polymorphism (T-RFLP) and 454 pyrosequencing of the amplified 16S rRNA gene. Six biofilm samples (designated R1–R6) collected from six locations (upper and lower sites of the inlet, middle and outlet) of the clearwell revealed similar bacterial patterns by T-RFLP analysis. With respect to the dominant groups, the phylotypes detected by clone library and T-RFLP generally matched each other. A total of 9,543 reads were obtained from samples located at the lower inlet and the lower outlet sites by pyrosequencing. The bacterial diversity of the two samples was compared at phylum and genus levels. Alphaproteobacteria dominated the communities in both samples and the genus of Sphingomonas constituted 75.1%–99.6% of this phylum. A high level of Sphingomonas sp. was first observed in the drinking water biofilms with 0.6–1.0 mg L−1 of chlorine residual. Disinfectant-resistant microorganisms deserve special attention in drinking water management.This study provides novel insights into the microbial populations in drinking water systems and highlights the important role of Sphingomonas species in biofilm formation.